Baseball offers a linguistic world of abbreviations, acronyms, and short-hand. Seriously, each spring most of us wake up to our first rounds of draft prep only to spend a good half-day scavenging through all the new tools of analysis that have popped up in the offseason.
With an ever-burgeoning group of websites and blogs, baseball numbers have never been more within reach. But, along with all of those numbers, computations, and ratios comes the challenge of using them correctly and using them to your advantage on draft day.
Luckily, for you dear reader, the masterminds here at Fantistics do all the heavy lifting for you! Buy the draft software, enter your league settings, let the software crunch the thousands upon thousands of numbers, and ... Viola! ... You know who to draft next!
Where the software can really shine is in an auction league. Every magazine and web site worth their salt offers an 'average' expected cost for each and every player that's on your radar. But, few offer the instant ability to alter those values for each and every player as the market changes during your auction.
Just take a look at this past weekend's industry standard auction, The League of Alternative Baseball Reality. In its' 22nd season, USA Today's LABR, league-only, auctions offer a refresher course in market forces every March. In the National League get-together, Clayton Kershaw, went for an astounding $40. In fact, the 21st-century version of Koufax, was tossed onto the table at $40 and ... no one even placed a challenge bid!
Once that 'standard' was set, all other NL pitchers fell in line. And, frankly, there were some strong bargains to be had. Max Scherzer came in at a 20% discount on Kershaw ($32). Madison Bumgarner cost his owner 40% less than Kershaw ($24). And, upper-echelon NL hurlers like Adam Wainwright, Jon Lester, and Johnny Cueto, all cost just 50% of what Kershaw came in at!
When you see such a huge discrepancy at a single position, the challenge is issued. How do you grade out B-level and even C-level pitchers? That's where a pair of Fantistics' offerings come in. 'Expected Auction Value' (EAV$) is the number to use before your auction. It gives you a general read on the normal cost of such-and-such a player, based off of your league settings. Then, once the auction has begun, the 'Inflation' or INF$, becomes critical. This is a real-time adjustment of what every single player available should cost based off of the price tag of players who have already been taken.
In the early stages of the draft, you won't see a big jump in INF$. Yet, as the auction moves along and you get outside the top 75 or top 100, you'll begin to see a players' INF$ dipping or rising multiple dollars from where it stood just an hour beforehand. This 'as-it-happens' calculation is a major leg up on the rest of your competition who is using a draft magazine where the static auction values were put together back in December!
Away from the breakdown of the draft software, here's a report on what went down in both the NL-only and AL-only LABR auctions this past weekend in Phoenix, AZ ...
Billy Hamilton ($27) and Dee Gordon ($26) go for big bucks
The prices on these two speedsters are exactly in-line with their EAV$ for a league-specific set-up. Personally, both are a little on the high-end, as I think they could both see a 20-to-30 point drop in their batting average this season. And, if that happens, you've got their two biggest attributes - runs and steals - taking a major hit.
It's worth noting that the STATs, Inc./NFBC team of Greg Ambrosious and Shawn Childs took both of these fleet-footed merchants. Their silent goal entering the auction was to punt batting average and go for HRs and SBs. Mission accomplished! On the power side, their team features Ryan Howard ($15), Pedro Alvarez ($23), Mark Trumbo ($20), Kris Bryant ($16), and Curtis Granderson ($11). In addition to Hamilton and Gordon, they tacked on Melvin Upton, Jr. ($5), Andrelton Simmons ($13), and former SB-threat Grady Sizemore ($1), who with health, could see double-digit thefts.
Matt Harvey ($24) gets the 'Welcome Back' Love
Yahoo! Sports Dalton Del Don admitted that last Friday's spring showing by Harvey (where he hit 98 on the radar gun in his return to the mount) probably lifted his auction value a good $3-$4. His updated EAV$ stands at $23, so Del Don wasn't too far off on what he paid. For me, I think Harvey is being incredibly over-valued at this point.
We must understand that seven inning outings will be the exception, and not the rule, for Harvey. When you pay $24, you better get a guy who nails down 200 innings. I think that even a mostly foolish organization like the Mets will keep him in check at near 180. Plus, I think that as we head deeper into the summer, the fading team will find a way to skip starts and limit the initial wear and tear on his right arm. After all, the over-arching goal is to have Harvey be the ace on an eventual contender ... not on a team that is hoping for 80 wins.
Beyond the common sense factor, there's the idea of just getting back into his usual form. He's had a year-and-a-half to get the elbow healthy, but that's also a year-and-a-half without in-game development. And, for a young guy - yes, even a dominant one - that's a hit to your progression and success as a big league pitcher.
When a Player Comes Up for Bid Can Change What He's Worth
Kolten Wong has plenty of admirers heading into the new season. But, even the most bullish probably doesn't think he's worth $25, right? Well, Lawr Michaels of Mastersball.com, was willing to go all-in on the second-year Hawaiian.
Wong's name came up around the 90th spot in the auction. At that point, Lawr had Kershaw and little else on his squad, including no hitters. With all of the elite batting talent gone, Lawr had to focus on the list of guys that he did like and that were still available. And, in order to make sure he got those targets, he was forced to go a few dollars above what we expect. In fact, if you look at Wong's current EAV$ at Fantistics, you'll see a huge difference. He's $14 over there, yet, again, he goes for $25 at LABR.
In a vacuum, is Wong really worth $25? Very unlikely, but not impossible.
Was he worth $25 to Lawr Michaels at that point in the auction? Possibly.
It's simple ... the supply was dwindling and there was still plenty of demand. That is how a normal cost suddenly becomes abnormal.
Altuve ($31) Comes in Ahead of Cano ($30)
After the names of Chris Davis ($26) and Miguel Cabrera ($35), Robinson Cano was up next. Longtime LABR contenders, Rick Wolf and Glen Colton, snagged the current Mariner at what has to be considered excellent value (EAV$ is just over $35). Just four names later, Jose Altuve popped up and actually came in at a dollar above Cano (EAV$ stands a dollar below Cano). USA Today's Steve Gardner coughed up the money for the tiny difference-maker.
I'm continually amazed at how sold fantasy players seem to be on Altuve. In order to earn $30, he's got to be a near-repeat of a season ago. That means he needs another massive season of batting average and, then, he'll need to run at almost every opportunity. Although the 2nd baseman is an accomplished batsman, I think he's closer to .300-even than he is to .340-plus. He DOES NOT walk (an average of 36 over the past three seasons), so when he loses 25-30 points in batting average (and, maybe more) how does he get the stolen bases that make him so popular? It's a question that I'm not willing to spend a lot of auction money on while finding out the answer.
As for Cano, I think that each and every thing he did last season is repeatable and he can even go up in a couple of cats. I think he's worth $2-$3 more than Altuve.
The Power of $1
Rick Wolf and Glen Colton are one of just three participants who are in both AL and NL LABR (Steve Gardner and the duo of Greg Ambrosious and Shawn Childs are the others). I loved what they did with the end-game of their AL-auction.
To me, this is an excellent list of $1 players ... Jesus Montero (slimmed up and ready for some work at 1B), James Jones (playing time issues, but very cheap steals), Ryan Rua (youngster could win the LF job for Texas), Dylan Bundy (uber-talented and could easily be in Baltimore rotation by June), and Nick Tropeano (the new Angel probably doesn't break camp with the team, but he's shown all he can at AAA and would be the first call-up with any injury or continued ineffectiveness by C.J. Wilson). Good work!
Where are the Elite Arms?
If you're heading into an AL-only league and your modus operandi is get one or, even two aces, good luck! The arm injury to Yu Darvish is another major blow to American Leaguers. We've already seen the depletion of resources as Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, and James Shields, all defected to the National League.
So, what are we left with? You've still got Felix Hernandez ($32 in LABR). David Price ($27) is definitely still ace-like. Corey Kluber ($25) is your reigning Cy Young winner. And, that's the end of the certainty!
Chris Sale ($25) has a foot injury and won't be active on Opening Day. The trio of Alex Cobb ($23), Marcus Stroman ($20), and Carlos Carrasco ($20)are good pitchers, but not worthy of top 10 status based off of their work to this point. Things are thin enough that even the perennially overlooked, Hisashi Iwakuma, is able to touch the $20-level.
This is very different from what we have in the National League. Understand that as we near the start of 2015, pitching is definitely en vogue ... but, it's not loaded in the AL.
You can hear Kyle each weeknight on 'The SiriusXM Fantasy Drive' from 7-10 ET, Sirius 210, XM 87.
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